How To Disable and Re-enable USB Devices

If you look at many companies that handle sensitive data, you will find a few things they have in common.  One is that they do not usually have CD or DVD ROMS on their computer towers and the other is that they have USB ports that are disabled.  The reason behind this is quite logical. They deal with confidential data and that means, they would not want their employees obtaining copies of the information that they have by using flash drives or a USB device.  It is quite understandable and also a good risk management technique.  USB drives are storage devices, thus the fear of the employers. Of course, to be out of harm's way, company policy includes the deactivation if not the actual removal of these ports.  There are some offices, though, that keep these ports for the keyboard and the mouse.  Office staff are only able to use the USB ports on their PCs as a read only device and not as a means to copy and save data.   

There are a number of techniques to disable and re-enable this part of the computer tower.  It is a matter of choice which path to use.  Some people prefer going to the BIOS or the basic input/output system of the computer.  Others use the registry and edit the entries there to resolve this issue.  This is the most commonly used method. 

For new users, the following steps might seem difficult but for the experienced techies, this would not be a problem.  Here's a quick guide to disabling your USB ports:

  1. Click start on the lower left hand side of the screen.
  2. Click run and on the box, put in the word "regedit" then click on the OK button.
  3. At this point, the registry will open and give you a long list of entries.  You will have to look for this: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\UsbStor
  4. When you see the details window, click start.
  5. Put in the number "4" on the value box.
  6. Make sure that the setting is in Hexadecimal.  If it is not, tick it then click OK.
  7. Exit the registry.  Make sure that you do not change any other setting as this might affect your system. 

If you want to re-enable your USB ports, use the same steps with a few changes.  Follow steps 1 to 4 again, but when you reach the fifth step, put in the number "3" instead.  Then follow the rest of the remaining steps.  These instructions are useful for desktops and laptops and are applicable to Windows XP (Home and Professional), for Windows 2000 (Advanced Server, Professional and Server) and Windows Server 2003.  This also works even if there is a USB extender or adapter.  All other hardware like USB drives, Bluetooth devices that can be used as storage are affected if they are plugged into a USB port.  But, if they are built in, they will not be affected.  Modems are usually connected via an RJ 45 port and thus are not disturbed by the above listed changes in the registry. 

Some people also remove the actual physical ports all together because they do not rely on the programs and the software installed on their systems to protect their data.  And this is actually a very safe measure but it is cumbersome especially if you need to use your USB port from time to time. 

But data safety is a key factor, and now you have the key.  You can use the above steps to enable or disable your USB ports and keep your data safe.   


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